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Kawasaki Duo Endure Sweltering Sepang

By: Tasha Crook | Published 20 October 2008, 13:05 | Views: 703 | tags: motogp, kawasaki racing, john hopkins, anthony west, michael bartholemy, sepang, malaysia
Kawasaki's John Hopkins overcame rear traction problems and the sweltering heat to take a hard fought 11th place in today's Malaysian Grand Prix. Anthony West followed his Anglo-American teammate home in 12th place, after struggling with similar issues around the blisteringly hot Sepang track.
Both Kawasaki riders managed to make up places in the drag race from the start down to the left-hand turn one, but then fell victim to other riders running wide as the pack jostled for position on the opening lap.

Hopkins managed to negotiate turn one safely, but then lost ground as he was pushed wide twice on the first lap. The 25-year-old Kawasaki pilot eventually hooked onto the back of the battle for ninth place between Randy de Puniet and Chris Vermeulen, but was unable to close the gap as his rear tyre started to go off. After chasing hard throughout the race, Hopkins was eventually forced to drop back and settle for 11th place at the chequered flag.

West's problems started even earlier than those of his teammate. The 27-year-old Australian made up a handful of places away from the start, but then got pushed wide by James Toseland, as the British rider struggled to get his bike stopped on the entry to turn one.

West eventually found himself in 12th place, but too far off the back of his teammate to try and mount a challenge on Hopkins. The Kawasaki pilot struggled with rear traction throughout the race, but managed to ride around the problem to bring his Ninja ZX-RR home in the points once again.

The Kawasaki Racing Team now head straight to Valencia, where both riders are hoping to finish with a strong performance in the season finale.
John Hopkins - #21 - 11th Position

"I got away from the start pretty well, but then I got pushed out wide a couple of times in the first lap, so I didn't manage to make up as many places as I was hoping for. Initially the lap times were good, but as soon as the rear tyre started to go off I began having problems. We improved confidence in the front this weekend, so I was able to close right onto the back of Vermeulen into the turns, but I was losing ground on the exit every time. The bike was just spinning off the edge of the rear tyre on the throttle, and it continued spinning once you'd picked it up onto the fat part of the tyre. With five laps to go the rear grip dropped off even more, giving me no chance of catching de Puniet and Vermeulen before the end. Rear traction has been a consistent issue this season, and it's an area that we need to look at very closely if we're to fully understand the cause, and ensure that we don't transfer the same problem to the 2009 bike. The result today was disappointing, because I really thought it was possible to get into the top ten. Hopefully we can end our season with a better result next weekend in Valencia."

Anthony West - #13 - 12th Position

"The start went pretty well, but then I got pushed out real wide in the first turn and lost all the places I'd made up at the start. Things weren't too bad for the first part of the race; the rear was still spinning up out of the corners, but at least there was some drive. But as the rear tyre started to go off I started having problems going into the turn. It was a really strange feeling; the rear would break traction as I turned in off the throttle. It was worst at the downhill turn two where it really unsettled the bike on entry, but I could feel it everywhere to differing degrees. It's quite hard to put in consistent lap times when you're lacking rear grip on both corner entry and exit, but I just got my head down and did the best I could. Hopefully we can come up with some improvements for the season finale next weekend, as I'd really like to end my time at Kawasaki with a good result."
Michael Bartholemy - Kawasaki Competition Manager

"This wasn't the result we were looking for this weekend, but it is still a step forward compared to Phillip Island. We know that with better rear traction both riders would be a lot closer to the front of the race, and we have made improvements in this area, but there is clearly still more work to do. The important thing is that our engineers have a clear idea of the causes, so I'm confident that a solution will be found. But, with only one race left this season, it may be that, realistically, we won't see the benefits of the work done this season until Kawasaki roll out the all-new 2009 bike in February. In the meantime, I hope that we can go out on a high with two good results from John and Anthony next weekend in Valencia. They both deserve it after all their hard work this year."

MotoGP Race Results:

1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Fiat Yamaha 43'06.007
2. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Repsol Honda Team +4.008
3. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA) JIR Team Scot +8.536
4. Nicky Hayden (USA) Repsol Honda Team +8.858
5. Shinya Nakano (JPN) San Carlo Honda Gresini +10.583
6. Casey Stoner (AUS) Ducati Marlboro Team +13.640
7. Loris Capirossi (ITA) Rizla Suzuki MotoGP +15.936
8. Colin Edwards (USA) Tech 3 Yamaha +18.802
9. Chris Vermeulen (AUS) Rizla Suzuki MotoGP +23.174
10. Randy De Puniet (FRA) LCR Honda MotoGP +25.516
11. John Hopkins (USA) Kawasaki Racing Team +27.609
12. Anthony West (AUS) Kawasaki Racing Team +41.399
13. Sylvain Guintoli (FRA) Alice Team +45.61
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